Respect must be earned and maintained not expected and demanded.
Unlike in some other cultures, I believe the American way is to give respect to those and when the respect comes out of my heart. I do not believe in giving respect to people due their being in a position of power, richer, older or better off in some way. Respect should not be given out of fear or out of feeling of inferiority. Respect is based on what someone does and not who someone is.
It saddens my heart when I see people not giving due respect to women and to young people who have earned it or are trying to earn it. To assume that someone is any less capable just because that someone is a woman, young, unconventionally educated without formal degrees, or comes from a less privileged background is incorrect. It is also unethical, unwise, immature and un-American.
I speak from experience. I worked hard from early on in my career, treating people with sincerity and caring along the way. At age 26, I became Vice President at a large media company, a position that I held for about three years before leaving to start my own company. Over the years, I worked with many of my colleagues and people reporting to me who had children my age. Some of these people, both within my company and outside, were initially hesitant about me because of my young age. Over time, I built great relationships of mutual respect with almost all of the people who were initially unsure about me. For this, I have greater love and respect for the American culture.
Some people say America has no culture of respect. They mention other societies where respect and honor are big values. We do have these values in America, and I’d argue we have them in their purest form, but you can’t demand them. You must earn them and maintain them, like all good things in a society with democratic values with capitalist ideals.
Sometimes when I meet executives from other countries, people tell me before hand to treat them with respect their way. They suggest things like bowing low to them, offering them a particular seat in the room, exchanging business cards in a certain way, and generally behaving in a foreign way. Instead of treating strangers with artificial flattery, I treat them with sincerity, caring, friendliness and a desire to gain mutual respect. I have found that sincere behavior has lead to lasting friendships and true mutual respect, even with much older people coming from countries with very orthodox cultures. When people from other cultures come to America, I want them to see that American culture does have strong values. When they are here, they should get familiar with our ways as they expect us to be familiar with theirs.